Coronavirus wrap: Premier League not given the green light to return yet

The Premier League still faces a fight to convince Government officials it is in a position to be able to complete the current season behind closed doors.

Despite extensive contingency planning, including for the potential of playing the remaining matches at neutral venues, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned the game is yet to get the “green light”.

Neutral venues are expected to be discussed in a meeting of Premier League clubs on Monday, while other mooted options for restarting the season have even involved the possibility of playing games abroad.

Oliver Dowden
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has warned sport is yet to get the “green light” to return behind closed doors (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But Dowden told BBC Radio 4: “They’ve not been given the green light.

“If we can get a plan that works then I’d like us to be able to go ahead with it because I think it would be good for the nation, it would be good for football as a whole.

“I’m really hopeful we can get this up and running but public safety must come first so it’s only if we’re confident of that that we’ll be able to proceed.”

Chelsea v Bayern Munich – UEFA Champions League – Round of 16 – First Leg – Stamford Bridge
Bundesliga clubs like Bayern Munich are set to return on May 16 (Adam Davy/PA)

Expectations of a minor easing of Government lockdown restrictions from Monday have fuelled hopes that football and other sports may receive a clearer sign of when they can resume.

Meanwhile in Germany the Bundesliga announced this week that it will resume matches on May 16, behind closed doors and subject to players being tested for coronavirus.

In readiness for a change in circumstances the Premier League has been in talks with the Government and broadcasters about showing some games free-to-air.

England v Wales – International Friendly – Twickenham Stadium
International rugby could also return behind closed doors (Nigel French/PA)

Dowden, who indicated he will meet with FA, Premier League and English Football League officials again on Thursday, added: “It’s not just the Premier League, it’s the rest of football and indeed other sports that could potentially take place behind closed doors.”

Rugby union, cricket and boxing are among the other sports making plans to return behind closed doors, although promoter Eddie Hearn has ruled out staging Anthony Joshua’s next world heavyweight title defence without fans.

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